Feel the Presence
Conversation With Aiya (16)
“That is how it all had happened Aiya”, I said with lot of relief after unloading my worries to him.The day had been tough and even the past few weeks were quite hectic with the chores of life. Luckily, walking with Aiya in the Park seemed a great escape as I found it as the best recourse to let go of my worries.
We were treading along the path in the Park nearby. For many years, walking in that Park has been my routine. After coming from work, whenever there is a possibility, I take a long brisk walk and that is the time for me to assess what all had happened on that day and to plan what to do.
However as Aiya did not seem to be so interested in what I have been saying, I touched him to drew his attention.
“What do you think Aiya?”
“Oh! Yea, what are you going to do?” he made a curt response.
“Well, I anticipate some good news at work. Regarding my sister in India who is being unwell recently… well… I need to sort out. I am planning to arrange for some local help. Few things are to do!”
Again Aiya was not seen to be listening.
I saw him standing and keenly staring at the bush.
I stopped too.
“What are you looking at Aiya?”
“Shsssh!” said Aiya, pointing his finger towards the bush. There was a little bird, feeding its tinier chicks, one by one. The chicks were restless, each pushing ahead to get its share of food, with the mouths ajar and making crackling noise all around.
It was a touching sight. I also noticed the roses near the bush and sensed their enchanting scent all around.
“What a nice smell and the velvet of roses! I have not seen them before!” I exclaimed.
Aiya looked at me with some curiosity.
“Don’t you notice these beautiful flowers when you do your routing walking?”
“Aiya may be not! I am always focused on my walking. I do the walking with some pace”, proudly said I.
“mmm… So you walk, with only the thoughts of your past and the plans for the future?”
“Yes, it helps Aiya! The body gets the exercise and at the same time my mind also engages with the important things and to plan what to do.”
After a momentary pause, I asked with some doubt.
“Why, is it wrong?”
“No, there is nothing right or wrong about it. I only pity that you miss out on the very essence of living.”
“Which is…?” I interrupted with some haste.
“Which is to live…” said Aiya.
“To live is to experience the moment. The ‘present’ is all that you have which defines your life, your existence. Everything else is just freak accident.”
“I don’t understand Aiya.”
“Well…. If you are squandering the great opportunity of these evening walks with the mere recollection of your deeds in the past and the dreams of your future, then you don’t live for the moment. Know, every moment lost is the life lost.”
That shook me.
“Aiya, How do you live for the moment?”
“Simple! To live for the moment is to be engaged with the present. To be precise, be aware of the ‘presence’. Be attentive to the mere existence of things.”
“Am I not?”
“Well, then how come you never took note of the rose?”
“Mmm, because I was busy thinking…”
“Thinking! Thoughts – that is the mind-thing. Mind can only deal with the past or the future. I am talking about the present and mind has no dominance here”.
“I don’t understand Aiya.”
“OK, What do you see here?”
“Yes. You sense it with your eyes because it has a form. You sense its sweet aroma because it spreads the fragrance. You know it by its name because you have the knowledge about this form.”
“Yes, also their unique smell. We all learn what the name ‘rose’ refers to. Yes, I do see these.”
“Do you see the birds?”
“Of course I do. Again, I know what the word ‘bird’ means and how different the birds are in their form and attributes.”
“Will you be able to see the rose next week?”
“I may, but not sure. Perhaps it might wither out. There may not be a rose.”
Where this conversation was going, I was wondering.
“When you see the flower, you actually cognize its existence and therefore say, ‘Flower is’, is it not?”.
Aiya quickly added.
“Of course in the English language, you have to say ‘flower is there or here’ etc. To state its existence, we can simply use the phrase ‘Flower is’…”
I simply acknowledged as the intent was clear.
“When you hear the name ‘Flower’, it springs in your thoughts, perhaps what all you may know from that name. But when you hear ‘Flower is’, then the verb ‘is’ or shall I say the ‘IS-ness’ indicates the presence of the flower, the underlying existence of the object that is described. Do you follow?”
“Yes, but I am not sure what to make of it”, said I.
“In everything that is presented to you, such as, Flower is, Bird is, House Is, Mother is….. etc., there is ‘the presence’, the ‘IS-ness’. Isn’t it?”
“Of course Aiya, the ‘IS-ness’ is the existence.”
“That ‘IS-ness’ is not differ from object to object. This you must understand. Only the name, form and attributes of the ‘IS-ness’ differ. Do you get it?”
“Kind of…. It means, the names and forms are not relevant to us? Without these differences, how can we deal with things!”
“Everything is relevant. But we have conditioned ourselves to focus only on the names and forms; generally in what our senses could perceive.
It is because of this habitual bias, when there is no perception, we tend to think that there is no ‘IS-ness’. That is absurd!”
“Probably! But if we cannot perceive, then we don’t see the presence of the object.”
“In dream you perceive so many objects. Do you consider those as real?”
“No, they may look real in the dream. But they are not. Dreams are not real. But the world is.”
I said with some stress, because I always find it difficult to accept if someone says the world is not real.
“Yes. The world appears to be real because we can perceive. We perceive because the world of objects have the name, form and attributes. So taking the objective world to be real, and if you want to use the word from Vedanta, then the world is ‘Satyam’, so be it.”
Aiya then continued.
“But just now we have agreed that beyond every object, there is ‘IS-ness’. Therefore there is ‘IS-ness’ for the world of objects” .
“Yes…”, I looked at Aiya with some expectation.
“Suppose for someone who has no sense of smell, is the rose devoid of its aroma?”
“No, certainly not! For such person, the smell is beyond his sense perception.”
“So, you must agree that the ‘IS-ness’, even though not directly perceptible, always underpins the presence of every object.”
“Needs to be”, I agreed.
“That means, the names, forms and attributes that are forever changing could represent only the same ‘IS-ness’ that underpins all. So when you
say the world is real or ‘Sathyam’, there is no conflict except that Vedanta ask you to shift your focus from the superficial name and form of the objects to the underlying ‘IS-ness’. That is the ‘existence’ or ‘presence’ of simply in Vedanta ‘the Sath’ . Observing the world as ‘the Sath’ should mean observing the presence.”
I was intrigued as Aiya continued.
“I did not know Aiya. We literally go by the name and form only, is we not?”
“Correct. Firstly we need to. But if you analyse, we have some intrinsic capabilities to decode and differently interpret the information to suit
Perhaps by looking at my blank face, Aiya continued to give an example.
“For example, if I say that I bought a box full of mangoes, what do you infer”
“Just as you say, that you have bought a box full of mangoes. The words are clear.”
“Suppose if I say that I ate a whole mango?”
“Well, I would infer that you ate the mango”
“Would you think that I ate the seed of the mango too?”
“Not really. I naturally filtered out that you eat the pulp of the mango and not the seed. That is the norm, right?”
“Right. We can take so many examples like these, where we give up the literal meaning fully or partly and substitute with other meaning to draw our inferences. Such an approach is called ‘bhaga-tyaga-lakshana’ in Sanskrit. It sounds bombastic. Simply it is the application of discretion to draw out the intended meaning. When we say the world is ‘Sathyam’, then we are required to apply the same logic. The name, form and attributes of objects are discarded as these always change; Our focus must be on that which underpins and remain forever”.
Aiya kept quite for a while, perhaps letting me to assimilate what he just said.
Then he continued.
“We must pay attention to that ‘presence’ in every moment of our life. We will see that the names, forms and attributes of all objects are only the frolic display of the same ‘presence’. If you take that approach to see the world, you will become the true observer of all its glory. At least your daily walks in the Park, when dedicated for that joy of being an observer of the presence, you become really inspired and charged. You will then remain as the unaffected witness to the divine play of the very ‘presence’ though it’s many dazzling forms and names. Personally to you, suddenly everything becomes full of reverence and of rare quality!”
“I never think like this Aiya!”
“Don’t think”, Aiya stressed on the word ‘think’.
“Just be aware. When your perspective thus changes, you would be awe-stuck with the mystery of everything. Miracle is life. All that happens is happiness. Each moment is a gift to observe this wonderful play of the existence…. Forever”
I was quietly engrossed!
“Hello…. Are you there?”, Aiya touched my hand.
I wearily looked at him.
“Are you breathing?”
“Of course Aiya”, I quickly replied.
“When did you last check that out?” saying thus Aiya roared with laughter.
I thought to myself that I did not check until asked. Suddenly my focus went on to my breathing and then on, it looked as if each inhalation is a task.
Aiya laughed for a while.
“I did not mean to make you count your breathing now. I am simply stating that we don’t pay attention to many things that are to be observed. When you are under the control of your mind, you are blinded to miss the ‘presence’. Only the names and forms as objects of perceptions are taken to be ‘Sathyam’ and important for us. Even though those are forever changing and disappearing like the dream, we still go after those superficial of things. In this ignorance, the ‘IS-ness’ we miss.”
After a pause Aiya continued.
“At least when you take these leisurely walks, you must leave your mind behind. Be a simple observer of the ‘presence’. Of course you can always go back to catch hold of your thoughts to dwell in the dead past or deal with the mystical future. But forever don’t miss to take note of the presence, because it your true existence.’
As it was late evening of November, the cold waves of breeze were caressing my face and the chillness making it numb. But I was enjoying the presence of the breeze as well as the gentle crushing of the fallen leaves under my feet. The ‘IS-ness’ is on full display. Suddenly there is so much to observe!
What is the use of this?
Is there a benefit in remaining as an observer of the presence?
I wanted to ask Aiya these questions, but as he was doubling up, it meant that it was done for the day.
“I will catch him tomorrow”, I said to myself, gently pushing aside the guilt of pondering about the future.